In 1953, Willem De Kooning was one of the world’s most revered living painters, and Robert Rauschenberg was a talented rising star, just a year out of art school. In this clip, Rauschenberg tells of how, armed with nothing but chutzpah and a bottle of Jack Daniels, he knocked on De Kooning’s door and flat-out asked the master for an original drawing — so he could erase it. De Kooning not only acquiesced, but even chose a drawing he particularly liked. Though it was controversial at the time, Erased De Kooning is now considered a conceptual art classic. And its influence endures: Last year a student at Brown out-Rauschenberg’d Rauschenberg by erasing De Kooning’s wikipedia entry.
If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.
If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks!